The Delusion of Self-Efficacy

Party dogWriting is lonely but exhilarating, a fair balance. What isn’t balanced is the defeat-to-victory ratio. Literally hundreds of rejections are the norm, a steady stream of them. Victories? What are those?

A writer must believe in the delusion of self-efficacy to keep going.

Self-efficacy is the ability to produce your intended result. If you intend to get your work published and noticed, and praised – and what writer doesn’t? – self-efficacy is your ability to accomplish that.

Alas, most of us really don’t have that ability. Statistically, the odds are severely against success. Self-efficacy as a writer is not realistic. Randomness and arbitrary luck are the best hopes we have.

But the delusion of self-efficacy is always available. That’s the belief that, despite all evidence to the contrary, you do have the ability to be successful. It’s not true, but you can believe it anyway.

Delusion is a form of madness, believing in something contrary to fact. Writers must cling to that delusion.

Once in a while, a tiny victory comes floating ashore like a note in a bottle, and that’s enough to sustain the delusion.

This week I had two (count ‘em, TWO) tiny victories. One was a request for a “full” from an agent. That means a fish bit the hook of my query letter and wanted to see the full manuscript. I rushed it off immediately, even though I should have waited a few days to proofread it one more time, which I have now done, correcting dozens and dozens of typos and solecisms. How embarrassing. I was excited. Oh well. Getting a request for a full is still a tiny victory though. Makes me believe I could be successful.

And then I had a sample chapter of another manuscript accepted by a jury, which qualified me to participate in an intensive critique session at an upcoming conference. I have no clue how many entries they had and how many submissions they rejected. Maybe they were desperate for conference attendees and took anything they could get. Doesn’t matter. I deem it a tiny victory. I need it to keep my delusion alive.

Doesn’t take much.

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